The coworking sector is tipped to re-emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, but its new client base may shift away from inner city startups towards suburban corporate workers.
Global commercial real estate giant, JLL last year predicted shared office space would surge to represent two thirds of the US office market space by 2030.
The global coronavirus pandemic has abruptly scuttled the rising trend.
A recent industry report shows the global coworking space market is expected to decline from $US9.27 billion in 2019 and to $US8.24 billion in 2020.
The exodus of workers from shared office spaces, and traditional offices, to working from home arrangements saw coworking spaces take an almost 50 per cent drop in footfalls.
But while 2020 is dark, there are promising signs that the coworking sector will bounce back, albeit in a different form.
The Global Coworking Growth Study 2020 analysed over 3,000 requests between pre-lockdowns and post-lockdowns, which showed space utilisation is beginning to recover and shift toward private offices, longer-term contract durations, and higher capacities of desks needed.
The study goes on to suggest that in the post-COVID-19 world, coworking will become even more mainstream, especially as companies continue to shift to remote-first workforces.
“Demand will mainly come from larger organisations and enterprises looking to decentralise their workforces into smaller branch offices and remote teams into private flex offices,” the study predicts.
RMIT University researcher, Thami Croeser suggests suburbs across metropolitan Melbourne can house co-working office spaces to manage virus risk in the long term.
“Squeezing onto a packed train was normal last year – now it seems unthinkable,” says Croeser, from the Centre for Urban Research.
“Bicycles are currently very appealing, but will that last as traffic returns to our streets?
“If public and active transport all become unappealing, more people than ever will drive to work – mostly alone – resulting in gridlock and parking demand that will make our return to urban working life deeply unpleasant.”
For smaller businesses coworking may be ideal, says Croeser, and larger employers like government and major corporates may opt to establish their own sub-offices.